"Zimzum of Love" review: 45-95, "Dynamic" and "Exclusive"


One of the reasons why I was initially hesitant to write a review of a book I knew I’d essentially agree with was that I’d move through the book and think ho-hum, or well, duh, or this is just common sense why did we need a book about this. And then I’ll remember– oh, wait, there’s a zillion books out there that actively contradict what I think is “common sense,” so yes, we do need a book like this one. Desperately.

Chapter three, “Dynamic,” was a pretty good reminder of this, because I can’t help comparing this book to others like Real Marriage and Captivating, and I’m bumping into things that are surprising to find in a Christian book about marriage. It’s a little sad that I read a sentence like “And human beings are endlessly complex and surprising” (48), and I want to draw a little heart in the margins because I’m happy they said that out loud.

So often the messages you get from books like these is that men and women can be understood as men and women and we just have to learn what makes your husband a man or what makes your wife a woman and then you’re set. You just have to get “what makes women tick” in order to have a happy marriage– but Zimzum doesn’t go there. They dedicate a whole chapter to the idea that people are different and complex because they are people and it’s what I’ve been shouting during all these reviews and it makes me just so happy that someone else is saying it.

I also loved this paragraph from Kristen:

We all know women who have lost themselves in marriage– giving up their dreams and goals and losing their sense of self in the process. Sometimes women absorb messages from their family or the culture around them or especially certain religious environments that tell her — in subtle ways, not always with words— that she’s not an equal and therefore her needs and desires and aspirations are not as important as her husband’s.

I wanted to jump up and down about a few things she says here. First, she explicitly says how women can “lose themselves in marriage,” which is an idea I’ve seen other Christians reference in books like this but they never go on to say what they mean. Kristen lays it all out– one of the ways we can lose ourselves is to “give up our dreams and goals.” Many complementarian-minded Christians could never actually admit to this reality because they want women to give up our dreams. That is sort of the point. Unless of course our dream was to serve our husbands and be barefoot and pregnant and do whatever he needs to support him and his job or his ministry.

And then she blatantly contradicts the complementarian message, and she is clear that what complementarians say and what complementarians actually mean are not going to be the same.

I didn’t get out as much from chapter four, the “Exclusive” chapter, because to me they make observations that apply to marriage but also seem to easily apply to long-term friendships; except, they seem to be making the claim that these things are different from what happens in friendship. For example, one of the ideas they build the chapter around is that shared experiences are important– that building a life together means creating memories together, and that your marriage is enriched by these memories. Which is true … but I also think the same thing could be said of pretty much any relationship. I get why it’s especially important to do this in a marriage, but it doesn’t seem that different.

I also disagreed with the message on the last few pages of the chapter– that it is “toxic” to “put another person into the space between you.” I get why they said this, as involving other people in a personal conflict can be an extremely unhealthy and harmful thing to do to your partner. However … sometimes it is necessary, and I think this is a fairly common idea upheld by American culture: “keep your marital problems private” isn’t something they pulled out of thin air. However, I think the heavy emphasis on this can be dangerous, as it is one of the things that keep people trapped in unhealthy, toxic, or abusive relationships. If they can never talk about the problems they’re having, they will never have access to someone willing to say things like whoa that is not ok and not normal and not healthy.

They do acknowledge that if things get bad you should get counseling … but people in abusive relationships don’t know that “things are bad”– that is how they’re in an abusive relationship.

So while I don’t disagree with the general thrust of their “Exclusive” chapter, I’m again reminded that people tend not to write books like this while keeping the realities of abuse and domestic violence constantly in front of them.

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  • I will add that couples counseling is not recommended for people in abusive marriages, because there is no safety for the abused partner to address the abuse. Also, the abuser will seek to make the counselor his/her ally and often succeeds, which oppresses the victim further. Marriage books in general are not for fixing abusive marriages; that requires an entirely different approach beyond “here are some rules for fighting fair.” People in abusive relationships should seek resources specifically tailored to their situation. But I agree: it would be helpful if more writers kept abuse victims in mind while penning these books.

    • Yes – my abusive ex and I went to counseling, and I always ended up beside myself with rage because he would LIE!!! He would put on this act of the concerned, loving husband who just has such a hard time dealing with his crazy, angry wife. The counselor, to his credit, told my ex that I was obviously hurting a lot and that he was going to have to deal with that fact (not in a patronizing way but in a you-can’t-disapparate-her-hurt-magically way).

      I would want to talk about the reasons I was so angry – the affairs, the abuse, but he would just want to talk about how my anger made him feel. A counselor who is trying to stay neutral and genuinely help the couple can’t do anything to help in the face of such dishonesty and obliviousness. I kept wanting to scream (and I might have a couple times) – I wouldn’t be so angry if you would actually apologize for your affairs and work on our relationship!

      His response? Well, I have no regrets – it’s our mistakes that define us and those are my experiences and my memories.

      Dude – Marriage 101 – if your spouse is hurting, and you caused it, you say you’re sorry. Period.

      So thankful I don’t have to talk to / see him anymore.

      • Thank you for sharing your story, AthenaC. I’m sorry that was your experience and I’m glad you got clear.

  • I’m not married so I can’t speak to that. I am the sounding board for a friend that loves her husband, but occasionally needs to vent about him or his family or her family. I know she doesn’t mean any of it and it never goes further than me. I listen and empathize and occasionally help her see things from an outside perspective. (Not exactly advice. Just someone that isn’t emotionally involved.) Most of all I don’t get in between them. I love her and I want to be there for her. So I’m not sure that I agree with keep your marriage problems private either. I couldn’t imagine being in a situation where you can’t talk it out with someone that isn’t emotionally involved. (Provided that someone is someone that you trust.)

  • I’m a very private sort of person that likes to keep “Family” business in the family. That said, I’ve always recognized that it’s important to keep away from becoming an echo chamber, and that everyone needs to be able to share with someone else. My wife and I, when we were dating, had a number of conversations about how we were going to balance the two. For example, she tells her parents nearly everything, and her sister (and her other best friend) absolutely everything. While I’m okay with that in general (and willing to make allowances for her even when I’d otherwise choose to keep things private) there are some personal things that I’d like to stay between us. So we had to work on a way for me to communicate that, because it’s unfair to be hurt that she shared something she didn’t know I didn’t want shared.

    I always look at people sideways that feel they can never discuss the relationships closest to them with those they trust. I also look at people weird that are always complaining about their partners.

    It’s almost like there’s a spectrum and a personalized balance!

    Thanks for the review, Samantha.

  • Ellen

    I like Rob Bell and would probably enjoy a lot of this book, however I simply don’t read Christian relationship advice anymore. Even when it’s somewhat progressive, I feel like there’s usually something that’s a bit off. Since reading some of Sue Johnson’s and John Gottman’s books (both created evidenced based marriage therapies), most Christian relationship advice feels weak to me. Gottman is a true pioneer researcher, and his book The Science of Trust changed my life and how I view the world. I wish more Christians would be willing to read books that are backed by actual research and not anecdotal experiences flanked by Bible verses.

  • Crystal

    Hi, just wanted to pass along a note about Fifty Shades of Abuse. It’s defunct now because the lady therapist got her career threatened. She’s still fighting it, so I’m putting it up for the last time, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the links to the side, and also to read the story from her lips: https://50shadesofabuse.wordpress.com/